The Gujarat Police on Tuesday arrested Trinamool Congress spokesperson Saket Gokhale in connection with his tweet citing an alleged fake news about expenses incurred for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Morbi following the bridge collapse that killed at least 140 people.
A court in Ahmedabad later remanded Mr. Gokhale in police custody for two days.
Based on a complaint filed by a BJP worker, the Ahmedabad police detained Mr. Gokhale at Jaipur airport, where he landed from Kolkata, on Monday night and brought him to Ahmedabad on Tuesday.
The Prime Minister had visited the site of the disaster on November 1.
BJP worker Bhalabhai Kothari had approached the Ahmedabad police’s cyber cell after spotting Mr. Gokhale’s tweet on December 1 in which he had posted clipping of a purported news report claiming that ₹30 crore had been spent for the PM’s visit to Morbi.
The tweet, based on the alleged news clipping, read, “RTI reveals that Modi’s visit to Morbi for a few hours cost ₹30 cr. Of this ₹5.5. cr was purely for ‘welcome, event management, & photography’. 135 victims who died got ₹4 lakh ex-gratia each i.e. ₹5 cr. Just Modi’s event management & PR costs more than life of 135 people.”
The police said Mr. Gokhale posted the comments on social media citing the report from the newspaper Gujarat Samachar. It added that prima facie the news clipping was fake and Gujarat Samachar had placed on record that they did not publish any such news report.
While seeking his custody, the prosecution contended that Mr. Gokhale’s custody was required to investigate the purpose of posting a fake and false tweet based on a fake newspaper clipping and thus spreading fake news.
The prosecution also submitted that there were two photos embedded in Mr. Gokhale’s tweet which referred to a newspaper clipping which was uploaded by another Twitter handle by the name of “Dax Patel”. The police wants to ascertain whether he was in touch with the person “Dax Patel”.
The police have booked him under IPC Sections 469 (forgery to harm reputation), 471 (using as genuine a forged document/electronic record), 501 (printing defamatory matter), and 505(b)( statements conducing to public mischief).
Trinamool leader Derek O’Brien took to Twitter to announce Mr. Gokhale’s detention by the Gujarat Police.
“TMC national spokesperson @SaketGokhale arrested by Gujarat Police. Saket took a 9pm flight from New Delhi to Jaipur on Mon. When he landed, Gujarat Police was at the airport in Rajasthan waiting for him and picked him up.”
“At 2 in the morning on Tue, he called his Ma and told her that they are taking him to Ahmedabad and he would reach Ahmedabad by noon today. The police let him make that one two-minute phone call and then confiscated his phone and all his belongings,” Mr. O’Brien added.
“The cooked up case is filed with the Ahmedabad cyber cell about Saket’s tweet on the Morbi bridge collapse. All this cannot silence @AITCofficial and the Opposition. BJP taking political vendetta to another level.”
There appears to be no clarity of whether the Ahmedabad police informed the Rajasthan Police while detaining Mr. Gokhale from Jaipur airport. The police claimed they had followed the “legal process” and brought him to Ahmedabad.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool supremo Mamta Banerjee, who is on visit to Rajasthan, condemned the Gujarat government’s “vindictive attitude” and contended that Mr. Gokhale had made no mistake in his tweet.
“It’s a very bad, and sad. Saket is a bright man. He is very popular on social media. He has made no mistake,” Mr. Banerjee told reporters at Jaipur airport.
“I condemn this vindictive attitude. He has been arrested because he tweeted against the Prime Minister. People also tweet against me… We are really feeling sorry about the situation,” she added.